Boundaries – some thoughts

Much has been said about the importance of boundaries in self-care for us as health care professionals. Protecting ourselves from perceived ingress on our personal spiritual, emotional and even physical domain is seen as important in preventing burn-out, avoiding unprofessional behaviour, and preserving our safety.

And this is all true, and quite self-evident. And useful to reinforce.

However, what I think might be more interesting is to look at boundaries in alternative ways to this. I wonder if there might be some creative ways into this area:

Perhaps, a session exploring the metaphorical usages of the word boundary and its synonyms?

For instance –

“Clive was not good at maintaining boundaries, and became quite emotionally involved with patients and their families when offering palliative care”.

This statement has at its centre a metaphorical concept of boundaries. This concept can be explored in order to understand better what is being talked about.


  1. Boundary – a line of demarcation in a diagram, indicating what belongs where
  2. Boundary – the border between one country and another. A political and geographical crossing point, which requires surveillance, checking, and can involve refusal of entry
  3. Boundary – the far reach of what can be known …. etc

A number of statements could be offered for exploration in this way, all involve use of the word Boundary. This would require some facilitation, but the insights that emerge are interesting as they offer new perspectives on a concept which otherwise can be taken for granted.

Or…. a session exploring the idea of boundaries from a permaculture perspective. Here a boundary is better regarded as an “edge”. In permaculture, this is an important design principle.

An edge is the boundary or interface between two biological communities (e.g. forest and grassland) or between different landscape elements (e.g. land and water).

The “edge effect” is an ecological concept that describes how there is a greater diversity of life in the region where two adjacent ecosystems overlap, such as land/water, or forest/grassland. At the edge you can find species from both of these ecosystems, as well as unique species that aren’t found in either ecosystem but are specially adapted to the conditions of the transition zone between the two edges.

Thus boundaries, and “edges” are areas of exciting diversity, and creativity. This of course resonates with the “edge of chaos” in complexity theory. There is potential therefore for an exercise to understand how to recognise, and make use of the edge effect. Another way of thinking about boundaries.


MW 23.7.15